Love or Fear? – Greg Albrecht


1 John 4:18, which tells us that love drives out fear, used to be my go- to verse for times when I was living in fear. Then a preacher told me that this verse means that one should not fear unless they are not “obeying” God. Now I just live in fear. Can you help me understand how 1 John 4:18 should be interpreted.


Your question is real and authentic.  Many people, if they are honest, live in fear.  In some respects, we all do to some level.  But a Christ-centered understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ explains that fear is the motivational factor of all that is anti-Christ, and I use that term not in some futuristic prophetic way, but to define fear.  Fear is the antithesis of the love of God. 

Fear is humanity – love is divinity.   Fear is the human dilemma, wherein we scramble to remain healthy and pay our bills, to take care of those we love, to be “secure.”   The love of God is submission to him so that regardless of the state in which we find ourselves, that of sickness or in health, in grief or celebration, in wealth or in poverty – we are at peace, because of him – we rest in Jesus, having given all our burdens to him.  Henry David Thoreau famously and accurately said “the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”  

Apart from the love and grace and mercy of God we cower before the gods of our society and culture, and we unwittingly give them “power” over our lives when they have no power whatsoever.  All power on heaven and earth belongs to God, who is love, not fear.   We know, as we trust our Lord and Savior, that while we will deal with, in our lifespans, what it means to be human in this life, we need not fear, for we are in him and he is in us. 

1 John 4:18 says there is no fear in love.  The context of this beautiful first letter of John is all about God’s love – not human love which is imperfect and transitory, but God’s love, which never fails, is forever, and is unconditional.  God’s love is completely at odds with the preacher who told you that humans should fear if they are not “obeying” God.  Really?  All of us fail to “obey” God all the time.  We are human, and that means we fall short. 

If God withholds his love because of our humanity, we are in a world of hurt, the gospel is not the gospel and we might as well fold up our tents because it’s every person for themselves – it’s survival of the fittest.  The preacher who told you this was no doubt sincere – but he was not talking about the one true God who demands obedience before he loves, he was talking about the many false “gods” of our society, religion and culture.   

But the gospel of the kingdom of God – as explained and defined in so many places in the New Testament tells us this:  Without God, his love, grace and mercy, we are all, even those of us who are religious people trying to earn his love, a bunch of pigs wallowing around in pigpens wherein we are told unless we clean ourselves up and “obey” God he will never love us.   The gospel though tells us this:  God loves you, right now, as much as he ever has or ever will.  He loves you because he is God.  He does not love you more when you are “good” and less when you are “bad” – that’s the way we humans love and withhold love.  God loves us because that’s who he is. 

There is therefore nothing to fear in God’s love.  Nothing.

The next verse, 1 John 4:19 explains further, about the kind of love God enables us to give to others when we follow Jesus Christ – trusting him, yielding to him, resting in him, and being at peace in our souls – having, as a great hymn says “blessed assurance” – this verse says the only way we can love, as God loves, is for him to love us first.  That’s they way God’s love “works.”  He does not wait until we obey in such a way that we pass a certain level of obedience and then he says “OK – I guess I will love them back.”  Unconditional, no-matter-what love, in-spite-of love – that’s the love of God which is the very opposite of human fears.

Hope this helps.  

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